The summit clash of the final edition of the ICC Champions Trophy features the two best teams in the competition, with cricketing superstars India facing the hosts England. After the post-IPL scandals, India have done well on the field to shift the focus back on cricket while England have proved their critics wrong playing a highly effective brand of cricket.
Going into the final, the teams are neck-to-neck in terms of form and personnel available. Both teams' top four have runs under their belt, their strike bowlers have exploited the conditions well and both have a compact fielding unit.
Here, Cricketnext takes a look at how both teams stack up to each other.
Top order's top form
Be it any form of cricket, if the top four fires, more often than not you end up on the winning team and that has been the case with India so far in this competition. With 739 runs between them in just four games, India's top four of Shikhar Dhawan (332), Rohit Sharma (168), Virat Kohli (133) and Dinesh Karthik (76) have dispatched every bowling attack that has come against them. Similarly, the England top order of captain Alastair Cook (159), Ian Bell (141), Jonathan Trott (209) and Joe Root (166) have gone about their business with little fuss but great effectiveness.
Rohit, as a makeshift opener, has so far provided ample support to the in-form Dhawan with the duo forging two hundred and two fifty partnerships. Cook and Bell have been able put together decent opening stands with two fifty-run stands, their scoring rate has been very slow as compared to the Indian openers.
In the limited amount of opportunity both Kohli and Karthik got, they have looked in good touch. Karthik's 51* against West Indies and Kohli's 58* in the semi-final versus Sri Lanka proved that they are more than handy to tackle pressure situations.
On the other hand, Trott and Root have been the cornerstones of England success playing in typical ODI fashion dismantling the bowling attack with systematic precision. Trott, who was highly criticised for his slow batting, has hit back with 209 runs at a strike rate of 89 anchoring the innings well at difficult situations. Root, after his impressive debut against India, has continued in same vein and has very much established himself as a solid middle-order batsman despite having mediocre List A statistics. His 55-ball 68 against Sri Lanka at The Oval too was evidence to the fact that his rickety structure does possess some handy fire power.
Going by the stats, the flair of India's top order does look better equipped in a final than England's dexterous top four.
India 1 - 0 England
Explosive lower order
With the top four firing, the lower middle order has had easy tournament so far, but the likes of Eoin Morgan and Ravi Bopara and the young Jos Buttler have credentials to be called as big hitters and it has been the allrounder Bopara who has done the bulk of the scoring at the death. The 28-year-old's 37-ball 46 against Australia at Edgbaston and 13-ball 33 versus Sri Lanka at the death helped England to big targets and in big matches like a final, a few extra runs at the back end of the innings always proves vital. Add to that his military medium pace bowling, Bopara is a crucial player in these conditions. Buttler, scored big against the Kiwis in the recently concluded bilateral series but has failed to get going in the tournament and same has been the case with Morgan.
For India, the only time the lower order was asked to bat was in the first game against South Africa in which MS Dhoni scored s 26-ball 27 and Ravindra Jadeja took the game away by smashing a 29-ball 47. Suresh Raina missed out on couple of opportunities, but all in all, the three Chennai Super Kings stalwarts are more than capable to scoring at a rate of knots as in when required.
Again, in this department India does have a major upper hand.
India 2 - 0 England
Fine tuned pace attack
The main reason why England were favourites coming into the competition was the bowling attack of James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Tim Bresnan and Steven Finn, and they have performed exceedingly well as was expected of them. Bowling spearhead Anderson has lead from the front picking up 10 wickets at an average of 12.70 ably supported by Bresnan and Broad. Anderson has extracted early wickets with his swing while Bresnan has so far been able to use the heavy ball to his advantage. Broad and Finn, who played one game, have hit the deck hard to trouble the batsmen.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar was expected to do well in the swinging conditions and he has not disappointed so far. With six wickets with an economy of 3.68, Kumar has given India a good start with the ball every time and Ishant Sharma's recently found form has helped India's cause. Umesh Yadav has played the secondary role very well bowling his heart out to scalp three. Against Pakistan and Sri Lanka in the semis, the trio bowled at good length and complemented each other and worked as a fearsome unit.
Keeping in mind the home conditions, England do have an advantage in pace attack, but marginally only.
India 2 - 1 England
Jadeja has blossomed from a batting allrounder to a more than handy spinner and has picked up 10 wickets at an average of 13 and along with R Ashwin, he has choked run flow in the middle overs. Similarly, in the absence of Graeme Swann, James Tredwell has used his experience to bowl some tidy spell. Root too has turned his arm over in all the matches and has been able to break crucial. partnerships keeping a check on the run-rate. 20 overs of spin would be hard for batsmen of either team to negotiate and the one who cracks the code in the middle overs, could very well have a decisive say in the finals.
England are expected to play it safe with Swann, meaning Tredwell will operate as the lead spinner, and with Joe Root for company, India seem to have better skilled spinners in the their XI.
India 3 - 1 England